Monday, December 23, 2013

Extraordinary Boxed Brownies!

Don't tell anyone but I'm using a boxed brownie mix! Yeah, I know.
"She goes to culinary school only to make boxed brownies".
Truth be told, when I make brownies scratch-made, I make them
for 30+ persons.  There are many brownie mixes out
there these days that aren't your every day boxed brownies.
What makes them extraordinary is
when "add-ins" are included altering the flavor profile...
Extraordinary Boxed Brownies!

For the brownies today, I used a boxed dark
chocolate flavored brownie mix.
The measurements you find on the box for the oil, water, and egg
remain the same.  What I added is 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
and 1/2 cup large-chopped macadamia nuts.

Extraordinary Dark Chocolate Brownies
Makes an 8x8 pan. Double recipe for a 9x13 pan.
1 (20 ounce) box dark chocolate brownie mix.
1/2 cup chopped macadamia nuts
1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
1/4 cup water
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line bottom and sides of an 8x8 baking pan with foil. Spray with nonstick cooking spray.  Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and stir with wooden until just combined.  Pour into prepared baking pan. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until toothpick in center comes out clean.  Cool completely before lifting the brownie from pan. Remove foil and cut into squares.

With all the hustle and bustle this holiday season,
why not use some tasty shortcuts?

I will be busy in the kitchen baking and prepping
for Wednesday's Christmas dinner so I will now
wish all of you a blessed Merry Christmas!


Friday, December 6, 2013

Red Hots Hot Cider Punch

I have been making this hot cider recipe for years.
It was made originally for me years ago by a sorority
sister for one of our winter sorority meetings.
It is deliciously sweet from the Red Hots candies
which equally add to its cinnamon taste.
The gorgeous red color they provide, with the help
of cranberry juice, make it the perfect hot
cider for the holidays.
Here is the recipe!

Red Hots Hot Cider Punch
Makes 1 Gallon+

1 gallon apple cider
1 quart cranberry juice cocktail

Tie in cheesecloth or place in tea ball:
     2 teaspoon whole cloves
     2 teaspoon whole allspice
     2-3 sticks cinnamon
     1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
     1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
     1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

8-12 ounces bag of Red Hots (to taste)

Heat cider, juice, spices, and red hots until boiling. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes and until candies dissolve. Take out spice ball or, if using ground spices, strain through cheesecloth prior to serving.

I hope this becomes one of your go-to hot cider
recipes like it is mine.  Its great not just for the holidays
but for anytime during our colder months.
This week I will be joining 

Thank you for visiting!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Turkey Plates and a Happy Thanksgiving!

I am a dish lover and collector which I, clearly,
inherited from my mother!
My mom was given four of these turkey plates years ago by her aunt.
Her aunt's husband had originally purchased them while living in
Syracruse, New York.
On Thanksgivings hosted by my mother, those four turkey
plates were on the table - mixed in with other plain "non-turkey" plates.
It was a real treat to have gotten one of the turkey plates to eat from.
A year or two ago, my mother and I were walking through an
antique mall and I did a double-take.  Mom and I both agreed that
the two turkey plates sitting there were matches to her four at home!
She bought them, brought them home, and sure enough they matched.
She now has six turkey plates.
She nor I have done any research on the plates but we did notice that
the two  found plates had a different plate marking on the back. 
The two found plates state:
The four original plates say:
Mom isn't hosting Thanksgiving this year so the plates
having been sitting in a vignette on her side table.
and used for dinner along with a Broccoli Chicken
Casserole and Autumn Salad dinner HERE.
So, on behalf of myself and my family, and Mom's six turkey plates,
I wish all you a very Happy Thanksgiving, safe driving, and happy eating!

Monday, November 25, 2013

A Lovely Salad for Autumn and the Holidays

 I am sharing with you a lovely salad for Autumn.
"Autumn" is in the title of recipes containing those
fruits (like the pear) and vegetables found during the
Autumn months. However, this salad is equally great for the
Holidays because of the beauty of the red dried cranberries.
This salad uses a fresh pear but any of the pears are okay to use.
The one I choose usually depends on which variety of pear 
is on sale.  I will admit that I do cross my fingers and
hope the Bosc variety is on sale because I like the visual
of the brown-ish skin left on the cubes of pear in the salad.
I wish for the Anjou variety for the holidays for its bright green color.
Keep in mind to buy the pears a few days ahead of time
just in case they will need to ripen.  For the salad, we
want the pears just ripe - not mushy.  Cut them and add them
to the salad just before serving so they won't turn brown.
There really isn't a recipe for this salad.
Sometimes I use a Baby Spring lettuce mix
and sometimes I use only chopped Romaine lettuce.
I made this salad recently with the Romaine lettuce along side
a French Onion-Bacon Tart. Sorry, no photos. A flavor tip
when making salads is to make sure you season your lettuces.
Just sprinkle a bit of salt and pepper over lettuces in the
bowl prior to adding whatever add-ins you are going to use.
The "add-ins" to this salad are the pear cubes, pecans,
dried cranberries, crumbled bacon, and feta! Sometimes I
crumble the feta and sometimes I leave them as small cubes. 
For the dressing, a Poppy Seed salad dressing is drizzled over the
salad followed by a drizzle of basic Balsamic Vinaigrette. I make my own
Balsamic Vinaigrette but you can buy a bottled one as well.  The
ratio is approximately 70% Poppy Seed dressing and 30% Balsamic
Vinaigrette. Mix well to combine and then taste a lettuce leaf. 
You will be pleasantly surprised how delicious this is.
I "pear-ed" this salad with a Broccoli Chicken Casserole
which is a great recipe that can be used with leftover
Thanksgiving turkey.  That recipe can be found HERE. 
I thought this little plant of
fresh "Turkey Seasoning" herbs was genius.
"Flavorful herbs grown with your holiday turkey in mind."
"Cut what [we] need for seasoning and the plant continues to grow."
I bought it at the grocery store and it came with the
cute ceramic turkey on a stick.  I will be giving it to
my daughters on Thanksgiving as a hostess gift. 
I will be linking this week with
The Tablescaper's Seasonal Sundays
Stone Gable's On The Menu Mondays
Rattlebridge Farm's Foodie Fridays
Thank you for stopping by and visiting.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Broccoli Chicken or Turkey Supreme

Dinner tonight is actually a recipe I want to share with you before
Thanksgiving because its such a great recipe for using
our leftover turkey after Thanksgiving. 
I first knew of Broccoli-Chicken Casserole because it
was the first dish my father learned to make after he retired
and my mother was still working.  He wanted to have dinner
ready for her! How sweet is that? (Miss you dad!)
But, I have to tell you, most of those recipes (including the
one my dad used) called for canned soup. 
I'm happy to say this recipe I'm sharing with you has NO canned
soup.  It is scratch-made using a cheese sauce and made with
crumbled (and buttered!) Ritz crackers for its topping...
I didn't say it was lower in fat!
Tonight I made this casserole with some leftover shredded chicken
breast that I had in the frig and had been needing wanting to use.
I broke up the fresh broccoli florets, leaving them on the
larger side, and then steamed them for 3 minutes.   
I placed them in the bottom of a greased
baking dish and sprinkled the shredded chicken over top.
The cheese sauce was then made by melting butter and adding
seasonings, milk, a little chicken broth, and a slurry of cornstarch and water.
It thickens beautifully then shredded cheddar cheese is added and
combined until melted and smooth.
This cheese sauce is now poured over the top of the chicken and broccoli
with more cheddar cheese sprinkled on top.
For the topping, I used Ritz' Roasted Vegetable crackers,
crushed them in a ziploc, again leaving pieces on the large side, then
added them to melted butter.  The topping was sprinkled
over the top of the casserole then baked. 
The recipe makes a 9x13 but I improvised and
made only an 8x8 because there was only two of us for dinner. 
I served it along side one of my favorite salads which includes
 dried cranberries, pecans, feta, ripened pear, and an unusual,
but tasty, dressing made by combining two different dressings.  Check
back in a day or two and I'll share that salad recipe with you as well.
This isn't the normal Broccoli-Chicken Casserole
and it certainly deserves the title of Supreme.
I hope you keep it in mind come Friday and you have
all your leftover turkey.
Here is the recipe: 
Broccoli Chicken Supreme
Makes a 9x13 baking dish.
1 lb. fresh broccoli, broken into florets.
3 cups cooked chicken breasts, cubed or shredded
3 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
2 sleeves Ritz crackers
1 stick melted butter
Cheese sauce:
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup cornstarch, dissolved in 1/2 cup cold water
1/3 cup chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 cups milk
1/2 of the cheese listed above.
Steam broccoli florets for 3 minutes.  Grease a 9x13 baking dish and layer the broccoli and the chicken.  Set aside. In a saucepan, combine the melted butter, cornstarch slurry, chicken broth, seasonings, and milk.  Stir with a whisk and continue whisking until sauce has thickened. Take pan off heat and add 1/2 of the cheddar cheese and whisk until melted and smooth.  Pour over the chicken and broccoli. Top with the remaining cheddar cheese.
Crush the Ritz crackers in a ziploc.  Melt butter in a bowl and add the crushed crackers to combine.  Sprinkle topping over the top of the grated cheese.
Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly.  Cover with foil if topping is getting too browned before its done.  Let it sit and cool slightly before serving.
Thank you for visiting!
I will be linking with
The Tablescaper's Seasonal Sundays
Stone Gable's On The Menu Mondays
Rattlebridge Farm's Foodie Friday
~ Karen

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Whats for Dinner? French Onion Soup

The nights are beginning to get on the chilly side.
Southern California is actually getting some much needed rain.
Dinner tonight will be French Onion Soup to warm our insides.
French Onion Soup is a classic soup made with broth and caramelized onions
then topped with a toasted baguette and Gruyere cheese melted until a broiler.
Absolute deliciousness!

If there is a trick to making great French Onion Soup, it would be
in caramelizing the onions.  True caramelized onions are slowly cooked
until they are  SO soft they are almost dissolved.  They can be SLOWLY cooked
stove top or placed in the oven (with its pan covered) at a slow
temperature for about 40 minutes then finished stove top.
The onions will have turned soft and sweet!
Broth is then added to the caramelized onions and cooked further until
you reach the desired richness (taste!)
I like to add  all beef broth for a deeper beef flavor. 
Half beef broth and half water can also be used and
I have seen chicken broth used also.
In a perfect French world, it would be made with veal stock.
If you happen to have some homemade veal stock tucked
away in your freezer - by all means use it!
After simmering, you will have a rich soup.
As the soup is simmering, shred a handful of nutty tasting,
easy melting, Gruyere cheese, and cut some slices
from a baguette.  I like to use three slices
for each soup bowl.
Place the baguette slices on a baking sheet and place
in a hot oven until lightly toasted on both sides.
Lade the rich soup into the bowls, top each
with three toasted baguette slices (stacked in a sort of a
triangle so they cover the opening of the bowl), and a
good heaping of shredded Gruyere.
Pop the bowls under the broiler... (Be sure to watch them!)
... until nicely browned and melted.
Carefully take the hot bowls out from under the broiler
and you will have a delicious rich onion soup
with a cheesy topping!
The following is a general recipe for French Onion Soup
but this is a great soup that you can easily "wing" without a recipe.
Go ahead, wing it! Give it a try!
French Onion Soup
Serves 6-8
2 oz. (half a stick) unsalted butter
4 large yellow onions, sliced, to make apx. 8 cups
1 small baguette, cut into 1/4-1/2 inch slices
2 quarts low-sodium beef broth
2 cups grated Gruyere cheese
Salt and Pepper
Melt the butter in a pot over medium heat. Stir in the onions to coat well.  Reduce the heat to low and slowly cook until the onions are very soft and taste sweet.  Stirring occasionally.  Apx. an hour until deeply browned.
While onions are caramelizing, make the baguette toasts by placing the baguette slices on a baking sheet. Place in a 350 degree onion dry-toast until lightly toasted on both sides.  Set aside.
Add the broth to the caramelized onion and simmer to enrich the broth and combine the flavors. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
Ladle the soup into oven proof bowls that have been placed on a baking sheet.  Put 3 baguette toasts in each bowl and cover opening completely with cheese.  Broil at high heat for a short few minutes (watch them so they don't burn).  Be extra careful removing the hot bowls from the oven.
Serve and enjoy!

Thank you for visiting!
I will be linking up with 
Rattlebridge Farms:


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Happy Birthday Pumpkin Cake with Ganache

For my sister's birthday, I made her this pumpkin layer cake
along with some delicious Pumpkin White Chocolate Fudge
that I previously posted about.  You can check it out HERE.
This cake has a cream cheese and whipped cream filling
with a semi-sweet chocolate ganache  poured over
and was delicious! If you are a bittersweet
chocolate lover feel free to use that! 
Here is the recipe:
Pumpkin Cake with Ganache Icing
Cake and Filling Ingredients:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
3 eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 of an 8 oz. pkg cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
Note:  I made this cake recipe twice to get a total of 4 cake layers.

Ganache Ingredients:
2 - 4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate bars (I use Ghiradelli)
1 cup heavy cream
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Grease bottoms of two 8 inch round cake pans.  Line bottoms with parchment paper.  Grease sides of pans and lightly flour.  In one bowl, combine flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, and salt.  In a second mixing bowl, beat eggs and sugar with mixer until thickened - about 5 minutes.  Add pumpkin and beat until combined. Add flour mixture and beat just until combined. Spread cake batter evenly into prepared pans.  Bake 16 to 18 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Cool on rack for 10 minutes, then turn out keeping tops up, and cool completely.
For filling:
Chill your mixing bowl then beat whipping cream to soft peaks.  Set aside.  In a second mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth.  Add and beat in confectioner's sugar.  Carefully fold in the whipped cream.
To assemble cake layers:
Place one cake layer on a cardboard cake round (I used an 8 inch so the ganache would pour down the sides).  Spread cream cheese mixture over bottom cake layer and continue with other layers.  Carefully place on a wire rack sitting on top of a sheet pan.
For ganache:
Finely chop the semi-sweet chocolate bar and place in a bowl set on top of a double boiler (a sauce pan with an inch of simmering water is fine).  As the chocolate begins to melt, pour in the heavy cream.  Let sit as it warms and melt.  Stir until completely combined and is a shiny smooth consistency.
To complete assembly:
Pour warm ganache over cake starting on the top, letting it smooth out and drip down the sides.  Do not go back over the top or it will not stay smooth.  Working quickly, it helps to use a spoon to help spread the ganache on the sides covering any cake still showing.  The trick is to complete the pour while the ganache is still warm.  It will begin setting up quickly so work fast! :)
Let cake sit to firm up before carefully moving to a serving platter.  I do not like to put the ganache in the frig so its best to assemble the day it is eaten (because of the cream cheese filling).
Enjoy and thank you for visiting!
I will be joining the linky party at: 


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Birthday Pumpkin White Chocolate Fudge

My sister recently had a birthday. She is a lover of anything pumpkin.
Growing up, she often requested a pumpkin pie as her birthday cake.
Yep! Candles on a pumpkin pie!

I came across a recipe for Pumpkin Pie Fudge on
 Mountain Breaths blog and decided to include it along
side the Pumpkin Cream Cheese Ganache
layered cake I made for her birthday cake. 
It was equally delicious!
Visit again for a future post for that recipe!

The fudge recipe is fairly simple with the first six ingredients
being cooked stove-top to soft-ball stage then the white
chocolate chips, vanilla, and marshmallow creme stirred in.
No waiting for butter to soften.  I always like that!

I used an 8" square baking pan instead of the original
listed 9x13 in order to get the height of the fudge I preferred.
I also left out the nuts because I have family members who cannot eat them.

I used some of the finished fudge as party favors at the place settings

with other fudge placed on a candlewick depression glass
plate sitting on the tabletop.

The next day, I placed the remaining fudge in candy
wrappers and delivered them to a dear neighbor.

Autumn to me is all about seeing how many different pumpkin
items I can make - some new recipes and some old favorites.

This Pumpkin White Chocolate Fudge is a nice surprise for
guests and incredibly delicious! 
Here is the recipe:

Pumpkin White Chocolate Fudge
(Makes about 3 lbs.)
2 cups white sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks)
5 oz. can evaporated milk
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
2 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
2 cups white chocolate chips
1-7oz jar marshmallow cream
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla 
Line a 9x13 inch baking pan (I used an 8x8!) with foil or parchment paper, leaving some hanging over the side for easy removal. Combine the white sugar, brown sugar, evaporated milk, pumpkin, butter and pumpkin pie spice in a mediums saucepan. Bring to a full rolling boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil, stirring constantly, for 10-12 minutes or until candy thermometer reaches 234 degrees to 240 degrees. Quickly stir in the white chocolate chips, marshmallow cream, pecans and vanilla. Stir vigorously for 1 minute or until the white chocolate chips are melted.  Immediately pour into the prepared pan. Let stand on wire rack for 2 hours or until cooled. Refrigerator tightly covered overnight. Cut into 1 inch pieces. Best stored in refrigerator.
(Note:  If you don't want specks of white chocolate showing, melt the white chocolate chips in the hot sugar mixture first before adding the marshmallow creme.)
There is still time to give this seasonal fudge a try before
the holidays are upon us.  I hope you do!
Thank you for visiting my blog!
This week I will be joining  



Monday, October 14, 2013

Munich's Oktoberfest 2013

I'm just back from Oktoberfest 2013
just about over my jet lag!

I joined my youngest daughter in Munich, Germany.
She has been living there for the past year and
insisted that my visit coincide with their Oktoberfest.
Oktoberfest is the World's largest fair held in
Munich, Bavaria, Germany. (Bavaria is it's region.)
It's a16-day festival beginning late in September and ending
usually the first Sunday in October.
The first Oktoberfest was held in 1810 to commemorate
the wedding of Crowned Prince Ludwig (later King) and Princess Therese.
By 1960, it became the World's largest festival. 
Germans wear their traditional clothing of Dirndls and Lederhosen.

Women can wear either a dirndl or lederhosen but the men, obviously,
just wear the lederhosen like the above picture shows.
More than 6 million
people from around the world attend Oktoberfest.
I was one of the 6 million this year!

The festival is much like our fair complete with Ferris wheel and other rides.
The focus of Oktoberfest is the beer and their breweries -- and hours of beer drinking!
Each beer brewery has a "Biergarten" and
sets up a "tent" on the premise.
These tents are taken down and set up every year!

The breweries also have a team of horses carrying keg/barrels of their beer.

The barrels are gorgeous with their fresh flowers.
We first went inside Hacker Festzelt.

It was the first tent I had gone into and I was in awe
at the size, the beauty, as well as the number of people inside!
We couldn't easily find a place at a table so we
decided to try another tent.

We then went into Augustiner Bräu.

It was equally as beautiful and equally as crowded!
My German-speaking daughter asked occupants at a table if they
 could fit us in and they made room for us!  Yay!

We immediately bought a large pretzel from a cute
"pretzel gal" in her dirndl dress. 
Then we ordered a "mass" of beer - to share.
I was amazed that the servers could hold so many masses of beer.
Her left thumb and fingers were holding the handles to each of the
bottom six and the seventh was just sitting on top!
She made it look effortless!
A mass glass holds 1 liter of beer and is the only size available.
An interesting note on the "Oktoberfest Beer" is that the beer is brewed
specifically for Oktoberfest and must contain a minimum of 6% alcohol.
(A higher alcohol content then in their normally brewed beer.)
It must also be brewed within the city limits of Munich.

Needless to say it is a lively crowd who often arrive and stay at their
tables from 10:30 in the morning until 10:30 at night listening
to the live music, eating, and drinking!
Eins, zwei, drei, Gsuffa!
(One, Two, Three, Drink!)
Food is served all day long...
and can be ordered table-side inside...
(Chicken, red cabbage, and a boiled potato!)
and outside...
 (Sausages and the like!)

and sweets for the sweet tooth!

I was content sharing my mass of beer and pretzel with my daughter.

Another Oktoberfest tradition is buying your sweetie a
decorated gingerbread cookie heart necklace called a Lebkuchenherz.
(Lebkuchen = gingerbread  Herz = heart)

My daughter bought me one that actually means "sweetie"
and I wore it around my neck like a necklace.
Many of them were humorous and endearing like "little mouse".

These gingerbread hearts can also be found again
during the Christmas holidays.

What a fun day to be remembered...

"Until we meet again!"
The next day we were off to visit friends in The Netherlands... Tchus!
Thank you for visiting my blog!
This week I will be joining
The Tablescaper's Oh! The PLACES I've Been!

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